Today’s post comes from Folaranmi. He uses London Dial-a-Ride to get around, and participated in our recent research into the service. On July 31st 2022 we led a group of service users to go straight to London’s City Hall and speak directly to the decision-makers in charge of Dial-a-Ride to share their personal experiences and lobby for change.
Folaranmi shares his experience of that day…
London Dial-a-Ride is a door-to-door community service for people with a permanent or long-term disability or impairment who are unable or virtually unable to use public transport. Since 2021, Age UK London and Transport for All have worked together to listen to Dial-a-Ride users so they can better understand our personal experiences, and use it to campaign for change.
At the London City Hall meeting in July 2022, I was pleased to have a chance to have my say directly to London elected politicians and to James Mead, General Manager of London Dial-a-Ride. Along with seven other Dial-a-Ride users, we talked about our personal experiences of using the service.
This was what I said:
“I am here to tell you about the impact on me when I was badly let down by the Dial-a-Ride service that never turned up. I can’t forget this, I really can’t. It was a big experience for me. Our Stroke Support Group had been meeting on zoom but now we were to have our Christmas Party in real life. I was so looking forward to this, I woke up early on the day. It would be the first time I could meet friends in person for such a long time. Our support group organiser had booked Dial-a-Ride for me; the time was fixed. I got ready – a nice outfit and even a tie. I really wanted to dress up. I’d taken time and was so happy to be going out again. However, when the time came and the bus didn’t arrive, I began to get stressed and anxious. My anxiety increased and I could feel my blood pressure increasing. I can’t forget that feeling. And it was only my support worker that was able to help calm me down and told me ‘not to worry’. After waiting over an hour, the organiser phoned me to say that there was no bus coming. We’d been let down. She asked if I could get another bus. By now, there was no chance. I’d have to prepare to get a bus and anyway, now feeling so disappointed and upset, I just couldn’t do it. I felt so terrible. How could I have been so badly let down? It had such a big impact on me, on my happiness, on my mental health. I want you to understand this; how it affects people. Thank you”
The other service users talked about their experiences – some just as bad as mine. They are all in the report – but we are there under different names. I don’t mind you knowing my name now.
I really recommend that you read the report – it’s good, not too long. The report shows that Dial-a-Ride can be a lifeline for the Londoners that use it and that it can significantly improve our quality of life.
We covered several key issues including how it helps people when other transport is not an option, the importance of this door-to-door service and that it is a free service. Then we covered the problems: booking availability, regular bookings, late arrivals or “no-shows”, the limit on the distance travelled, how there are inefficient routes, the operating hours have been restricted, how many members are unable to get a booking and the cost of phone calls and how some calls are cut off. We made recommendations to improve the service and talked about how many other people could benefit from Dial-a-Ride are just not aware it exists, so there needs to be better information and publicity.
During the pandemic many of the users of Dial-a-Ride had their existing experiences of social isolation exacerbated. In 2021, Age UK London launched a campaign called Out and About. The purpose of the campaign is to call for positive changes to London’s community infrastructure so that older Londoners would feel more confident about getting to the places we wanted to and doing the things we wanted to do.
Please support this campaign!
At Transport for All, our members are the heart of what we do. We aim to empower members to speak directly to those with power, and have a meaningful say in how transport services are run. We believe that co-production and involving people who have lived-experienced in planning, monitoring and all stages of the processes from right at the start to the end is the best way to develop and maintain a good transport network for all.
Please get in touch to find out more and get involved.